Our feet are often protected from burn damage through shoes and socks, so much that we might only think of burning feet in terms of the “hotfoot” gag in old cartoons or dancing along summer sand to reach our beach towels. When we face an actual burn to the foot, however, it becomes a very real situation that might need prompt attention.
Degrees of Damage
A foot burn can come from a variety of sources. The sun, flames, and hot water are often thought of first as causes of burns, but grease, caustic chemicals, and electrical energy can also be to blame. There are three commonly referenced levels of burns, depending on the severity of damage to the skin and underlying tissues. The degrees of burns on the feet is the same as anywhere else on the body.
First-Degree Burns affect only the outermost layer of the skin, causing a more “superficial” amount of damage than higher degrees. Your everyday sunburn can be considered a first-degree injury. Symptoms often include pain, redness, a minor amount of swelling and sometimes dry, peeling skin. A first-degree burn is often easily treatable at home and typically heals within a week as the damaged skin cells shed.
Second-Degree Burns extend beyond the outermost layer of skin, causing more extensive damage. The affected area will become very red and sore, and blisters will often form. The wound may also have a more “wet” appearance than a first-degree burn, due to blisters draining or opening. A second-degree foot burn will usually heal in 2-3 weeks, but should be kept cleanly bandaged to lower the risk of infection.
Third-Degree Burns extend deeply through all layers of the skin and can even cause damage to underlying organs and bones. Severe pain may not accompany this type of burn as the affected nerves may have been damaged, but the severity will be visible. The skin may look white, raised, charred, or leathery. A third-degree burn is a medical emergency that needs professional attention. Call 911 immediately and do not attempt to treat the damage yourself.
Treating Minor Burns
Most first-degree burns and some second-degree burns can be treated at home. However, it is important not to underestimate the damage you may have received, as any level of foot burn can open up the risk for infection; even with tetanus. If the burn covers a large portion of the foot, goes deeper than the outside level of skin, or you live with complications from diabetes, we heavily recommend calling us at California Foot and Ankle Institute.
To treat minor burns at home:
1. Cool the Burn – Immerse the foot into cool water. Do not make it ice cold, though, as this might cause further damage. Add a small amount of mild soap and gently use a soft washcloth to rub off any dirt or loose skin that might be present.
2. Dry and Protect – Carefully blot the foot dry with a clean cloth or towel, then apply a layer of antibiotic ointment to the wound. Petroleum jelly, lotion, butter, and other “home remedies” should not be used, as they can increase the risk of infection. Follow the ointment with a bandage large enough to cover the burn and a surrounding ring of undamaged skin.
3. Keep it Loose and Free – Avoid wearing tight socks and shoes as the burn heals. Keeping circulation open is key to healing. Also try to avoid walking on the burned foot as much as possible, and keep it elevated above the level of your heart as often as you can.
Foot Burn Treatment in Irvine, CA
A burn to the foot is not always something to take lightly. If you suspect your injury needs help, the doctors at California Foot and Ankle Institute are more than happy to take a look. We’d much rather help you heal quicker and avoid infection than risk complications! Reach us toll-free at (888) 796-6631 to schedule an appointment, or call our two offices directly: (760) 951-2000 for Victorville or (949) 833-3406 for Irvine.